Aspen locals Sam and Desi Barney in their future living room. PC Dan Bayer:

Just beyond Aspen’s downtown core lies Smuggler Park, an old-school trailer park-turned-subdivision its HOA touts as “real homes for real locals.” Two of its residents, Sam and Desi Barney, are using a CORE Net Zero Homes grant to drive real change when it comes to how their home uses energy.

Sam and Desi prove that anyone can reach net zero (producing as much energy as they use), or darn near it, with a little elbow grease and smart design. 

For the past 15 years, the Barneys have lived at Smuggler Park in a beloved trailer, one Desi described as “awesome, but not all that efficient.” They determined it was time for the upgrade they had been talking about since 2006. Where that trailer once stood is now a wood-framed home-in-progress rooted in CORE’s new Path to Zero philosophy (learn more at our Zero Is Here! story).

The 1,200-square-foot rebuild will utilize efficient design like passive solar, in addition to all-LED lighting, ENERGY STAR® appliances and a 3.33kw solar photovoltaic system. The smaller square footage is unique for a highly energy-efficient home in Aspen and the Barneys are showing valley residents how it is done. 

Sam utilized his years of experience in the building industry, along with help from an architecturally savvy friend, to make it all happen. The building envelope consists of super-insulated walls, high ceilings and sunny windows that are already making the incomplete space warm and inviting. That same envelope is so air-tight, the petite home will require an oversized energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to keep indoor air fresh and healthy.

He installed the ERV in the crawlspace to maximize interior space and efficiency, a project Sam was able to tackle on his own to save on project costs. “I did the radon and ventilation stuff myself, which was a LOT of fun,” he joked, “but it will save us a lot of money.”

While the Barneys are aiming for net-zero energy, they might not get 100% there, and that’s okay by CORE, whose goal is to help residents progress toward that gold standard. Voltage limitations prevented them from electrifying all of their mechanicals. The couple instead used the most efficient gas appliances available, but only where they were absolutely necessary, like the boiler.

The result will be a home that uses barely more energy than it produces: by design, 80% less energy than an average abode of the same size. The energy use is measured by a scorecard called the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), on which the Barneys anticipate tallying around 20. To put that in context, a score of 100 represents a baseline house from 20 years ago and a score of 0 is a net-zero home. Learn more on HERS here.

CORE’s Net Zero Homes grant helps homebuilders get a return on their energy investment. Any project with a score of 50 or better potentially qualifies for some funding. CORE’s mission is to remove the typical barriers that prevent homeowners from going net zero through financial incentives and free energy advising. As Sam put it, “Working with CORE helped us get on the path to carbon-free living!” 

If you’d like to get on the Path to Zero, reach out to one of our energy advisors today by email or phone: (970) 925-9775. CORE’s Path to Zero is a roadmap that makes big reductions in energy use simple for you. Whether you are well on your way like the Barneys, or just need to know where to start, we’re here to help with free energy advising, incentives and resources.